A Phenomenological Study of the Office Environments of Clinical Social Workers

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Objective:The purpose of this study was to explore the meaning and uses of the office space among licensed clinical social workers in private practice.Background:Previous research suggests the importance of the office space in clinical practice in regard to therapeutic alliance, client behavior, and the well-being of the therapist. However, therapist offices contain much variation in design. This study looked further into specifically how the therapy room is important through the perspective of the licensed clinical social workers in order to identify common themes.Methods:Seven licensed clinical social workers in private psychotherapy practice were interviewed in their offices. Phenomenological research methods were used to explore and analyze their experiences.Results:While the offices contained many physical differences, the intentions behind the designs were similar. Three themes emerged regarding how participants used and designed their spaces. First, participants used their offices to provide care for clients and themselves. Second, participants used their spaces to communicate therapeutic messages and to reveal and/or conceal aspects of themselves. Third, participants also used their space in direct practice.Conclusion:This phenomenological study provided insight into the importance and use of the psychotherapy office space. These findings may be helpful for therapists designing or redesigning their own practice spaces.

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